Bruce Theien thanks God every day because each day is a gift to him.
Theien, 53, Jenkins, said he's had pretty good life so far. He has a loving family and has met many good friends over the years through his songwriting and music career. He helped write "I Can't Reach Her Anymore," by Sammy Kershaw, and more recently, he contributed four songs to Doug Spartz and Friends.
His life has been good. Then, on Dec. 11, Theien found out he has stage 3 esophageal cancer. He's endured six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. He lost a lot of weight and some hair. This week, he's at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for more tests to see if he can have surgery at the end of this month.
Bruce Theien (left) played poker Tuesday with Dan Villnow and other friends in his home in Jenkins. Theien has cancer of the esophagus. A benefit is planned March 25 to help him pay his medical bills. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
To help Theien defray medical costs, a benefit is planned from noon-8 p.m. March 25 at the Brainerd Eagles Club, 124 Front St. in Brainerd. There will be food and a raffle drawing for prizes, which include an eagle chain saw carving donated by Pat Scrimshaw, an acoustic guitar and mandolin donated by Iron Hills Gun and Pawn, a high definition television and a Mathews Outback bow donated by Archery Country. Raffle tickets are $5 and are available at the Eagles, Oak Lawn Tavern, Bridge of Harmony and Tiki Hut.
The benefit will include entertainment. The host band is Muddy Water, with special musical guests Jennifer Bruce, a singer/songwriter; Steve Hall and Shotgun Red; and Roger Francis, singer impersonator.
"I've been blown away with all the donations and support," Theien said. "I have such good friends and family. ... It's been phenomenal.
"I have three jobs one day and the next day I don't have a job. This (money from the benefit) will go a long way for me until I can get back to work. I'm just so overwhelmed. You don't realize how great of friends and family you have until something like this happens."
Theien said the entertainers, who are donating their time at the benefit, are close friends. Theien retired as a musician five years ago, but he still does some songwriting. He works part time at Northern Tool and Equipment in Pequot Lakes and he works out of his home doing bids for a flooring company.
Theien and his wife, Debra, also take care of his older brother, Justin, a quadriplegic who needs 24-hour care.
Bruce Theien of Jenkins has stage 3 cancer of the esophagus. A benefit is planned to help pay his medical bills. It will go from noon-8 p.m. March 25 at the Eagles Club, 124 Front St., Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"A lot of people think I'm a saint, but I'm not," he said. "Most people would do the same for their family. ... We're in the best position to do it. I couldn't have done it without my wife. She's amazing."
Theien's sister, Jody Cluever of Brainerd, said, "Bruce kept Justin healthy for so many years, and when Bruce got sick and went to the Rochester clinic, Justin had to go to VA in Minneapolis where he went into cardiac arrest ... It's a horrible nightmare to the family. Justin is now being treated at the Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul."
Cluever said the family prays for both brothers.
"I'm a strong-willed person and I've overcome quite a bit in my life," said Bruce Theien. "My life is in the hands of God. ... There's nothing else I can do to beat it. It's hit or miss with cancer. I'm OK with it. I'm thanking God every day because it's a gift. I'm not afraid and I have no regrets."
If you go
What: Benefit for Bruce Theien to cover expenses for his cancer treatment.
When: Noon to 8 p.m. March 25.
Where: Eagles in Brainerd.
Cost: Free. Raffle tickets for prizes are $5.
Entertainment: Host band is Muddy Water with special guests Jennifer Bruce, Steve Hall and Shotgun Red and Roger Francis.
Theien overcame bone cancer 23 years ago.
Debra Theien said Bruce Theien is a loving husband, father and grandfather.
"He's a very thoughtful person and a good friend," she said.
Delores LaFollette of Brainerd, who is organizing the benefit, has known Theien for more than 20 years. LaFollette said Theien was a drummer for her band, Snowbirds.
"Bruce has a great sense of humor," said LaFollette. "He's fun, talented, serious, a great songwriter and he's a good-hearted person ... He's easy to like."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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